Leadership in the Garden: Pulling Up Weeds
Each spring I look forward to planting my vegetable garden. It is a hobby of mine that helps me to unplug, and soak on what is going on around me. I have found that as I spend my weekends playing in the dirt, God uses the time to teach me much about life and leadership. This summer, I am writing about those lessons each Monday in a series I am calling Leadership in the Garden.
The Parable of the Sower has always been fascinating to me. Within a few minutes, Jesus sums up the spiritual lives of pretty much anyone we will ever meet. Through the years I have often found myself teaching on this passage, and what it means for our journey of discipleship. While each of the different soil types are worth soaking on, I have always been particularly intrigued by the third soil… the weeds:
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Lately we have been doing a great deal of weeding in our garden. Everything is growing like crazy: we have been picking a bunch of lettuce, broccoli, radishes, carrots, and just scored our first zucchini. While we are preparing to have beets, cucumbers, beans, and tomatoes coming out of our ears in the near future, the fertility of our soil makes a great home for all kinds of weeds as well. By regularly pulling the weeds, we are removing all the obstacles that keep my salad from getting the sunlight, water, and minerals that they need to keep us in pickles all summer.
Weeding is simple, but there are three things you need to do in order to be successful: be consistent, get dirty, and go for roots.
- Be Consistent:We are learning to incorporate weeding into our weekly rhythms. In the past we would let the garden go for weeks at a time in between weedings, only to spend hours restoring sanity to our beds. We have found that twenty to thirty minutes a week is really all it takes to keep our garden weed free, and it is far better for our vegetables since they are able to get the maximum sun, water, and minerals since they have less competition.
- Get Dirty: Weeding is dirty work. In order to do it well you need to be willing to play in the dirt. There is little room for daintiness when you yanking the roots out.
- Go for the Roots: When I was young I thought that weeding was like cleaning my room… if I shoved stuff under my bed and in my closet, it was clean! With this approach I would lop off the tops of weeds, and go about my day. What I came to realize is that weeding is much more effective, and ultimately easier, if I get the roots of the weeds out of our vegetable beds… doing anything else is a waste of time.
Why Weeding Matters Personally
Weeding our life on a regular basis is one of the most significant disciplines that we can engage in as leaders. Over the last several years more and more authors like Jim Collins and Patrick Lencioni are teaching business leaders what the church world already knows: great leaders lead with humility and integrity. The only way to truly lead with humility and integrity is through regular weeding. We need to consistently be engaging in a process that takes a hard look at what is going on in our lives, be willing to get dirty by being completely honest with ourselves about what is going on in our hearts and minds, and being intentional about going for the roots of the issues we discover.
One final word on weeding in the personal context: you can get away with not doing this for a season, but it will catch up with you eventually. I hear too many stories about pastors losing their jobs and families, because they weren’t regularly weeding. Don’t neglect this.
Why Weeding Matters Organizationally
Many years ago I was involved with an organization that refused to admit that it had a problem. The organization’s leadership had cordial relations with one another in their staff meetings, but outside the conference room there was nothing but distrust, politics, and flat out organizational warfare. The organization as a whole was ineffective, and was never able to gain the momentum it needed to have any kind of success.
This organization was never weeded: leadership was unwilling to consistently deal with personal issues as they came up, had little desire to get dirty by holding people accountable to organizational standards, and worst of all they had no desire to go for the root of any situation… always opting for the superficial fix over dealing with the real organizational issues.
The church is far too important to be bogged down by pettiness, infighting, and politics… as a leader you are responsible for developing a healthy organizational culture and intentionally weeding that culture.
How do YOU intentionally handle personal, and organizational, weeding?